Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.

The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.

Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.

The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.

Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.

Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.

Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Official Panerai Luminor Submersible Op 6725 Pam00024 1500 Limited WristwatchPanerai Luminor Marina Pam 171 Titanium/ss Power Reserve Automatic Men's WatchMen's Hommage Panerai WatchOfficine PaneraiRare Panerai Luminor Pam 074 Titanium Chronograph + Date: Opiv El Primero Mov'tAuthentic S.steel Panerai Luminor 1950 Marina 3 Days Automatic Pam312Panerai Luminor Power ReservePanerai Luminor 8 Day Titanium , Pam00564 Pam564 Great Deal!Panerai Luminor Marina Pam00164 Pam164 44mm Automatic Mens WatchPanerai Luminor Marina Acciaio Pam00111 Wrist Watch For MenPanerai Radiomir Black Seal Date 3 Days 45mm Pam00388 Pam388 Auto Unworn !!! Panerai Pam497 Radiomir 10 Days Gmt Rose Gold Retail $34,900 Limited 250 MadePanerai Luminor Submersible Firenze 1860Panerai Pam 127 Special Edition 1950 "fiddy" 47mm Limited 1950 PiecesOfficine Panerai Grey Assolutamente 26/22mm Buckle Inc 100% Genuine AuctionPanerai Guarantee Certificate, Cc-card Size, Blank & Mint ConditionPanerai Luminor Papers Booklet Certificate Marina,gmt ,power Reserve ,1950 Seiko Brightz Sagl003 Automatic Watch, Titanium Case, Panerai HomageOfficine Panerai Burgundy Calf Strap 24/22mm Inc Buckle 100% Genuine NewLeather Strap Band Brown Panerai 44mm Size 20/22/24/26mmPanerai Luminor Marina Titanium & Steel Pam 91 44mm Pam00091 Anthracite Pam91Original Oem Panerai 44mm Radiomir Black Calf Leather Strap Fcd 2130Stuhrling Original Marina Militare Chrono Panerai Hommage WatchGenuine Officine Panerai 24mm Black Rubber Band Strap (newest Size)oem Brand NewOfficine Panerai : Warranty Card ( Genuine 100% - Check The Pictures ) 24mm .handmade ,oiled ,soft Calf Leather Watch Strap .panerai,ammo Style.125/80Genuine Officine Panerai 24mm Black Rubber Band Strap Oem New Panerai Radiomir 1940 3 Days Paneristi Forever 47mm Black Dlc Watch Pam 53224mm Bronze Watch Buckle.scull&rose, Flottiglia Decima ,panerai ,with Patina .Rare Panerai Luminor Pam 074 Titanium Chronograph + Date: Opiv El Primero Mov'tOfficine Panerai Dark Brown Asso 26/22mm Strap 100% Genuine Inc Buckle Auction